posted on by Jennifer Abelson

Fresh and Local, Year round

Chances are, you’re sitting inside right now, curled up as you wait for another Cleveland winter to pass…dreaming of fresh fruits and veggies and waiting for spring. We can’t make the winter go by any faster (we do live in Cleveland, after all!). And unfortunately, kiwis and pineapples don’t grow in below-freezing temps. But there is a way to eat fresh, local, fantastic food during the winter: Enter Countryside Conservancy.

Winter Market 2 2010 - WOLFE

Photo credit: Scott Wolfe. Featured vendor: Breezy Hill Farm

Countryside Conservancy is a year-round farmers market that offers seasonal produce and local foods, even in the winter! In partnership with Cuyahoga National Park, the Conservancy’s overarching mission is to “connect people, food, and land by increasing public awareness of how food and farming impact personal, community, and environmental health, and by inspiring personal commitment to building a resilient, sustainable food culture.” In layman’s terms, Countryside Conservancy encourages good food, local farming, and sustainable practices.

Chef Ben is a fan and strong supporter. He’s been shopping at the Countryside Farmers’ Markets for years and has been selling prepared farmers’ market foods through the oh-so-popular Spice burrito and brunch stands.

Old Trail School Winter Produce Infinite

Photo credit: Countryside Conservancy. Featured vendor: Infinite Garden Farm

The farms and Countryside Conservancy do not shut down during these dreary, frigid winter months. Instead, they offer local and seasonal preserved and prepared foods during what can seem like an endless Cleveland winter! Here’s a small sampling of winter offerings:

  • 100% grass-fed milk cheeses
  • Hand-blended teas, kombucha, and apple cider
  • Meats, such as pasture-raised veal, lamb, beef, chicken, and turkey
  • Seasonal fruits, such as apples, pears, and figs
  • Seasonal vegetables, such as Bok choy, celery, arugula, spinach and winter squash
  • Locally prepared food, such as gnocchi, pierogies, scones, quiches, huevos rancheros, and homemade candy

There are only two winter markets left in the 2015 season – March 14th & 28th – but you can engage with the movement year round. Countryside also encourages Ohioans to get to know their food better in a variety of ways. Here’s how:

  • Classes ranging from bread making to farm management. These classes are open to the public and change seasonally–make sure to check out their class schedule as they do fill up!
  • Food Swap: a two-hour extravaganza with everyone bringing a homemade, local item to share via silent auction. Show off your homemade salsa and bring home someone else’s black bean burgers for dinner.
  • Countryside Chix events, ladies-only nights out with a local food focus. Their first event will be with Rising Star, the amazing artisan coffee roasters.
Spice of Life Menu 2010 - WOFLE

Photo credit: Scott Wolfe

But, perhaps one of the most family friendly activities during the winter at Countryside is their Saturday brunch. The Countryside Winter Farming Markets at Old Trail School is home to a tremendous concentration of local artisans. Spice offers a special brunch menu, so you can shop the amazing craft scene with your families and then enjoy some warming comfort foods that crossover between breakfast and lunch, like oatmeal, soups and brekkie quesadillas. Make a day out of it and, after stuffing your face with brunch, browse the numerous food stands. Purchase homemade spinach pie or handcrafted fresh soups to-go for an easy, local, delicious meal at home. Finish your locally prepared, zero-fuss dinner with a Bebenroth-family favorite: a fresh pastry from one of the stands.

Maize Valley  wCustomers GW

Photo credit: Gary Whipple. Featured vendor: Maize Valley Farm Market & Winery

In further support of their shared mission, Spice Acres is also a Countryside Conservancy farm, producing a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, botanicals, and heirlooms…even eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Among Chef Ben’s primary goals with Spice Acres is that “the produce from the farm will take prime real estate on the plate.” Not only will Spice diners eat local, they’ll be eating from a Spice farm. Talk about a true farm-to-table experience!

So, whether you’re dining at Spice, eating brunch at the Conservancy, or shopping at the stands after a cheese-making class, the goal of the Conservancy is to get you—yes, you! –involved with your eating and your lifestyle. So, instead of dreading the winter food scene, try eating local. Eat fresh. Eat with the Countryside Conservancy and brunch with Spice Kitchen.

If you’re hungry for more, check out this awesome write-up on the Countryside Conservancy and Spice Acres in National Geographic!

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